If I were told I would shortly be stranded on a desert island, and I would only be able to take five books along with me, and I didn’t have an end date for the stranding (in other words, there would be none of that bullshit crap-TV-show pretend-stranding going on, where there’s really a swank Third World hotel with hot and running showers on the other side of the island), I already know what my first choice of the five would be. Even after all of the time that has passed since my first reading of it, I know which one I’d choose. [I think I know which book you mean, and I would choose the same book. Nothing quite picks up the spirits like rereading Novel Deviations.]
I mention this because, with all the talk of hooks and hooking we all find ourselves needing to do, [If you've been hooking in hopes of getting published, you've been sadly misguided.] (and how if we don’t hook the hell of our first readers there will be no further reading, and thus, no second readers, and so on), the first line of this book is no blow out. It knocks no socks off. It’s simple, although it does leave a reader wondering a quiet little ‘why’. This is the line: “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” [How did that happen? Excuse me while I put my socks back on.] [Told someone named Jem got his arm broken, I wouldn't wonder why; I'd assume it wasn't his idea. I'd further assume it was broken in a fight by a bully who'd been teasing him about having a girl's name.]
I find simple lines that draw the reader on down the page to be the most powerful, rather than the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am stuff. [Translation: My novel has a simple, yet powerful opening that draws the reader on down the page.] But I’m not the one who’ll be making the decision to read on - the decision that counts.
What do you think? Is there still room for a quiet, draw-your-eyes-down-the-page kind of hook, or do so many things clamber for attention now that the small and building beginning could be considered a losing art?
That there has to be an explosion of some sort to garner favorable attention?
You need to hook the agent or editor in your query letter, not your first sentence. I suppose you could unhook me in your first sentence, if it had three misspellings, but if your opening paragraphs have the qualities of good writing--focus, specificity, organization, good word choice, a logical narrative progression--and you've started the story in the right place, the explosion can come on page two.